This week our company was in the news for receiving a grant from the State of Connecticut for “job creation.” Our agreement with the State is that we will match, dollar for dollar, the amount we get from them and use that money to create jobs in our home state. This is something that comes naturally to us as it is what we have been doing since we created our company. Nobody who works for us lives outside the borders of Connecticut and most of us are less than a 20 minute drive away. In this age of long distance commuting and “outsourcing” hiring locally might seem somewhat “out of date” especially since we are a Technology company. We say “NONSENSE!” and would match our staff against any in the world and have currently found all the talent we need right here in our own backyard.
Moreover, as well as making sound business sense, my partner and I have always thought that this was “patriotic”. For us, providing jobs for people in this country is important and we take issue with the prevailing attitude of “oh well, its globalization and that’s how it goes.” We’ll go as far as paying more for our supplies if they can be domestically sourced. I’m not saying that there isn’t a place for outsourcing in certain areas but in the last two decades it seems like there has been a rush to outsource everything that is possible, rather than everything that makes sense. The values of teamwork, morale, communications, service and people management seems to have been, in many cases thrown out the window. The results overall have been reduced quality of service. (Think “Your call is important to us……”). When it comes to designing complex software involving tight project deadlines, frequent communication and teamwork are essential. Nobody can convince me that doing so with people half a world away, whom I have never met and who don’t know our customers is anything but false economy at best and a potential disaster at worst. Sure, the rates might be a fifth of what they are here in the States but that’s only one variable…….and it should NOT be the deciding factor. (AND, it’ll probably take 5 times as long to get it right.)
So even if your idea of being “patriotic” includes outsourcing, you might want to look beyond the cost factor alone. If you have ever become frustrated talking to a support person 6,000 miles away who is pretending to be “Mike from Atlanta,” imagine how that would work trying to design, develop, and implement a complex software product.
We can ONLY imagine, since it’s not something you are going to see us do.
To talk with Bob or Dave in Connecticut (yes, really, IN Connecticut) Contact us or Call us at 203-831-8655.
We had a great visit to our office yesterday from State Senator Bob Duff and State Representative Larry Cafero. We are excited to join the Small Business Express Program and look forward to new hires as we continue to expand! Click on the picture below to watch the news story from www.itsrelevant.com.
State Senator Bob Duff and State Representative Larry Cafero with JayStar Group President Dave Roger and CEO Bob Stevenson
It’s no secret that these days unions are under attack at many levels from their political and ideological foes. Some of the more recent tactics are directly aimed at disrupting or crippling a union by using indirect methods, such as attacking their administrative functions. A prime example of this is the threatened removal of “dues check off”; the procedure whereby a union organized employer deducts dues amounts from the union employees’ payroll check and remits the amounts directly to the union in question. Members’ dues of course are the life blood of unions. Disrupting the dues check off or other collection procedures in such a fashion as to force the union to collect individual dues from every member, can seriously threaten a union’s existence. As another example, think of how the Bush-era changes in the LM-2 regulations forced you to spend time and money re-working your bookkeeping and accounting. Or, think about how changes in the right-to-work laws are profoundly affecting organized labor.
The potential for these “indirect” attacks should make every union examine their “back office” procedures (accounting, membership administration, benefits administration etc.) and think proactively about how to be prepared.
Here are three pieces of advice that we could give unions in this direction:
- Focus on what the prime mission of any union is – organizing and mobilizing your members
- Get expert assistance in the areas in which you are not an “expert.” This usually means your “back office.” Whether you have a full time, paid back office staff, or are a smaller organization with volunteers performing these tasks, make sure you have the best tools in place.
- These attacks are not going away. Plan for the future and avoid short term thinking. Maybe your opponents didn’t win this time around, but they will try again.
To achieve these objectives means investment and thinking about your union for the long term. It cannot be done “on the cheap.” Getting expert assistance does not mean your brother in law who took a week long course on programming or the guy next door who “keeps books”. It means delegating your back office functionality as much as you can to experts in the following areas:
- Accounting and Financial Control
- Membership and Dues Administration
- Benefits Administration
- Information Technology
Getting real experts in these areas will pay off hugely in the long term. This fight is going to be waged in the long term.
If you want expert advice on any of the areas above contact us for a free conversation and evaluation.
As specialists in union back office systems we often hear the old saying (upon which I’ve based my title above) “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” This is often used when talking about software which could be referred to as “past its sell by date”, “vintage” or well….. Just plain old.
There is some truth to this adage when discussing perhaps a kitchen blender or a staging of a Shakespeare play, but when it comes to software it can be false economy in the extreme. Two areas in which we specialize are membership systems and accounting systems. In each of these areas, the changes that have come along in the last few years are of great significance. In some cases we are not even talking about improved functionality and additional features, but changes which have totally revolutionized the entire functionality of the product in question. Take for instance the impact of the Internet on the present possibilities of union membership and dues software. Here are some extraordinary capabilities which depending upon the size and type of union would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.
a) Maintaining and reporting on your member data from anywhere in the world.
b) Self service areas where members can (within allowed parameters) see data relevant to their own membership and dues history.
c) Pay union dues and other charges online using credit cards and / or ACH charges.
d) Instant communications en masse with membership through e-mails and social media.
e) Internationals’ systems can consolidate and analyze data in real time from hundreds of locals, with everybody viewing the same data at the same time.
f) Employer payroll data (e.g. dues deductions) being sent digitally and processed faster as a result.
g) Filing official forms and reports (Department of Labor LM-2, LM-3 etc.) online.
h) “Cloud” based systems where even small locals can access powerful systems on an “as required basis” and reduce the reliance on internal software, operating systems, networks and costly “IT support”. Cloud systems can even greatly reduce any “up front” capital expenditure.
All of the above examples have come into being relatively recently and are offered by our company. Yet time and again we see unions of all sizes still using systems which were designed and implemented years before any of this was possible.
These changes don’t just represent technical advances; they come with sometimes vast savings in efficiency and cost. The impacts upon system design, operation, and deployment have been dramatic and every union should be considering how they might benefit from adoption of a system based on the latest technology, even if their existing system “ain’t broke”. It’s a bit like sticking with a horse and buggy when you can fly. The horse and buggy “ain’t broke” but it’s time has passed, and so has its efficiency and cost effectiveness. If you have a system which has been developed before words like “eBay”, “blog” , “Google” or even “web” were around you seriously need to look at today’s alternatives. Bear in mind that at the rate modern technology advances it is far easier to make changes incrementally on a planned basis than to try and suddenly overhaul a system whose pedigree goes back to the days when disco was new.
If you would like a no obligation appraisal of your current systems, and want to find out more about how recent developments in technology can help your union, please contact us. We’ll be happy to help.
This time of the year, the part of our company which deals with LM-2 preparations goes into overdrive as most unions end their fiscal year in December, resulting in an LM-2 filing date in late March.
Ever since the information requirements in this area became more onerous a few years back, this part of our business has steadily grown and in the process we have refined the service and software we use to address this area. Whether a union decides to use our preparation services or not, here are some areas of general advice that we give to any union faced with filing this report.
Firstly, don’t look upon this requirement as an “end of year” exercise, but rather treat it as a year round process which will greatly ease the panic factor at year end and curb the stress of “rushing to meet the deadline.”
To achieve a smoother process, start by regarding your LM-2 preparation as three distinct areas.
- Data recording
- Data extraction and consolidation
Here are some tips we can pass along in each area
- Data recording – This is mostly done in your accounting system. Try to work with a system which enables you to record the LM-2 information for each transaction AS YOU RECORD IT and WHICH IS IN ADDITION to the “regular” coding required for general ledger coding. The Department of Labor’s original recommendations, which advise basically increasing your general ledger accounts is NOT the most efficient way of doing this. Systems like QuickBooks® and Microsoft Dynamics GP® have “class” or “analysis” codes which work much better in this area.*By capturing the LM-2 information as you record each transaction you will avoid a mass re-coding effort at the end of the year.
- Data extraction and consolidation – Once the data is captured as part of your regular accounting process, you need to extract it and group according to LM-2 schedule requirements. If you are using an accounting system like the ones I mention above, you should be able to extract your transactional data by creating customized reports and then exporting the results to Excel®. In Excel you then have the ability to sort and group the data in accordance with DOL schedule requirements.
- Filing – The DOL software provides import routines to enable you to import your data into the web form without having to key every item. Getting your extracted data into one of the formats required may require some technical expertise, but since some LM-2’s can run into hundreds of pages, the time spent here will be well worth it.
Obviously there are many considerations and details to consider in the above steps. Experts like our business or your CPA can advise you on each step of the LM-2 process and do so in accordance with the Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS). For instance, our company uses specialized software for steps 1) and 2) above. This greatly reduces manual effort and is far superior in terms of analysis, balancing, and audit trail provision.
We have also created specialized “Toolkits” for step 1) above, for some of the more popular accounting systems. If you would like a free copy of one of these, or for more information, please contact us at email@example.com or 203-831-8655 and we will be happy to assist you.
Also take a look at U.S. Congressman Jim Himes visiting our offices during last year’s busy LM-2 preparation season.
When I came across an article about the New York bus drivers strike in the NY Times, I am reminded that for the first 10 years of my life, my father was a bus driver and a union man. Although he eventually moved on from being a bus driver, he remained a union man his whole work life.
My father worked for the city back in my native Scotland, and like the workers in this story, he was more than just somebody who drove them around. He was a familiar face on his route, and a symbol of dependability. I can remember when my friends and I would get the opportunity to ride on his bus, and that I felt VERY proud this guy everybody knew was in charge, and that he was MY father.
Later in life I would reflect that he carried responsibility for many people’s lives in the same manner as an airline pilot, but yet worked long hours and was paid low wages. Like most workers in Scotland up until the 1960’s, he worked Christmas day as a matter of course. By 1963 staff turnover amongst bus drivers was over 50% in a 12 month period. In 1964 his union went on strike like the workers in New York and things started to change, but by that time he was in another job as a telecommunications engineer with strong union representation.
He never worked another Christmas.
With the launch of our blog, we are excited to extend our knowledge and expertise on labor unions and back office solutions to the World Wide Web.
On our blog you can expect to find the latest information and news on some of the following topics:
- LM-2 preparations and compliance
- Dues processing and management
- Union membership systems
- Grievance management systems
- Accounting software
- Customized software solutions for unions
- Solutions in the cloud
- Staff reflections to industry articles and topics
- Free tips and downloads
- Labor Union updates
- Product announcements
- And much more!
We will be posting to our blog regularly and we encourage visitor interaction and comments. Commenters can expect to get a prompt response from the JayStar Group staff when suitable. While we do appreciate any interaction with our blog we do ask that comments and language are kept appropriate. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and that being said, any outside comments and visitor replies do not reflect the ideologies of JayStar Group and are opinions of the party that is posting. JayStar Group maintains the right to moderate anything posted by visitors that is deemed as diminishing or offensive to others. We also ask that you do not address customer service related topics through the blog but reach us via our Contact Page.
Here at JayStar Group we will also be looking to spread our reach through various social media outlets. We encourage you to follow us for the latest news and tips on labor unions. Social media links can be found on the top right portion of this page and we welcome you and or company/organization to interact with us.
Over the upcoming months we will be offering a variety of different posts and free downloads as JayStar Group continues to grow, and provide labor unions throughout North America with our software solutions.
If you have suggestions of things you would like to see from our blog, we would love to hear from you. Or for more information or questions about JayStar Group and our labor union software please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.